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On the Run in Baltimore

A view of the early morning Inner Harbor in Baltimore.

Photo provided courtesy of author.

I’ve been on the run in Baltimore. Every morning at 7 a.m., I step outside my apartment for a run down to the Inner Harbor. What started as an activity to fill the insomniac hours of early morning has settled into a welcome routine. The light paces of sneakers on the sidewalk mix with the growing sounds of the morning commute as I head to the center of the waking city.

The first thing I notice is the night’s debris on sidewalks. Cigarette butts litter the bus stop, remnants of endless waits. Trash from passing cars and pedestrians is still. The morning dog walkers struggle with their pets, trying to prevent the canines from sniffing curiously at the detritus. A few blocks down, a crew of morning sidewalk cleaners in green polo shirts wheel their trash bins up and down the street, like Sisyphus and his rolling boulder.

The sound of cars swells over the music in my headset, and the morning traffic grows heavier as I arrive at the wide downtown streets. The shops and their glass windows are still dark and hooded, and commuters stopping at traffic lights and standing at bus stops wait anxiously. I hit the sights of the harbor and marina, which means that car traffic is more dangerous than ever. I slow down at the crosswalk, keeping an eye out for left-turning vehicles in my blind spot. A few weeks ago, I witnessed a man on a scooter become an unwilling rag doll to a car that ran a red light. Only dumb luck let him escape with just a bruise to the head.

At sunrise, the Inner Harbor smells of strong brine. Sometimes after a night of rain and muddy runoff, the harbor smells of dirt, like summer rain. The bay is a calm blue in the sheltered cove of the Inner Harbor. Seagulls and ducks rouse from their roost at the docks and cautiously wade into the water. Fellow runners jog on the boardwalk, alongside office workers on scooters crossing from Federal Hill to downtown and students in uniform walking to school. I reach the far edge of the boardwalk curve, the point of return, so I turn back to face my day.

While retracing my steps, I think about what lies ahead — a full day of work to do in lab, a cascade of Zoom meetings to attend, grocery items to pick up, emails to compose, calendars to check, faces to greet and places to visit, all dissolving into a blur of colors and scenes in my mind, only to come to a stop back at the apartment. Tomorrow, I’ll be on the run again.

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